Posted by: Karen (Betty Bear) | January 29, 2012

Cause or correlation

I went for a walk today. It was appalling how long it seemed when it was really short. I’m embarrassed at how little exercise I have gotten since my back became a problem and now that it’s better I’m having a great deal of difficulty prying myself off of the sofa and out the door. I feel like an illustration of whichever law that is that says a body at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force.

But while I was walking I got to thinking about something my doctor said once. I went to her with mysterious achy pains and tiredness and had said that the only thing I could find that fit my symptoms was fibromyalgia. She told me that there really wasn’t any such thing as fibromyalgia, that it was a collection of symptoms that medicine couldn’t find either cause or cure for and so could only treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause. For those of you who do have this condition, please note she was not dismissing the very real symptoms that sufferers do have, she was just saying it was a catch-all phrase for something as yet undefined. Which led me into thinking about cause and effect.

We say, smoking causes lung cancer, or aluminum causes Alzheimer’s, or lack of fiber causes colon cancer, when, in fact, they aren’t causes, they are correlations. If smoking causes lung cancer, then all smokers should get lung cancer. Obviously there is something about smoking that increases a smoker’s chances of getting lung cancer, but it isn’t exactly a direct cause. Our human brains are wired to think “if this happens, then that will happen,” because being able to predict helps survival. If you can predict the best time to plant, you are more likely to reap a bountiful harvest. If you can predict animal migration patterns, you can figure out when the best time to hunt is or when not to get trampled by elephants. If you can predict weather patterns, you are less likely to be caught unawares by a storm. How much of what we do and how we do it is based on predictions?

I recently took an online class in Paganism and Witchcraft and among other things there was a brief mention of planting by the phases of the moon. Now we have a garden, not a huge one, but reasonable size and we use our planting zone (6b) and last frost date as guides for planting. We also use past experience. It makes sense that in ancient days, when people were not tied to a calendar, but relied on the weather, the time of the year, the passing of the seasons, using the moon as a marker of when to plant worked. Now, when we have planting zones and books and websites and all to help us plant, do those traditions truly help the plants? Or do the ancient traditions help us to be more connected, more aware of the earth?

This lead me to think (something about walking just loosens up the brain and lets connections happen) about Julie’s daily card draw. Do we really receive signs from the universe or do we just try to create patterns out of random events to give ourselves a sense of control? Does it change how you live and act if you believe there are underlying patterns in the universe?

This is all just ruminating, thinking out loud, I don’t have any answers. Anybody else out there have any thoughts?



  1. Maybe the Universe talks to those it knows are listening?

  2. That would make some sense, wouldn’t it? Why talk to someone if they won’t listen to you.

  3. Oh wow, such Deep Thoughts! Way cool when our minds open up and amazing questions (plus answers too) come flooding in.

    Was your class with Deb fun? I’m so glad you got to take it. And nice that your back is allowing you to move around a bit. I am a huge fan of NO DAMN PAIN!

    • No damn pain would be good. Class with Deb was interesting. Deb’s stuff was good, although I knew more of it than I thought I did. Some of the participants were more about the pronouncements than the discussion so after one time of putting something out there and getting slightly stomped on I just read quietly.

      • Ouch. Oh that’s too bad.

        Skye made the greatest observation one time (and if she or Deb are reading, this is a positive and fun thing!), that was dead on accurate:
        for both of you being witches, you sure are DIFFERENT!

  4. oh, I could go on and on about why I use tarot cards. I think we have access to more wisdom than we consciously know– I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it’s happened to me often enough that I believe that there is some source of wisdom that we can access (our own subconscious? some kind of hive mind? God? Divine Source?). But i also think you’re right– that our brains impose patterns to try and make sense of what would otherwise be chaos. The thing that is new for me over the past few years is that I no longer think that makes it meaningless. Yes, we create our own meaning, and yes, it is “real” meaning, not just something we imagine, even though there’s no universal involved. I’m not explaining this well. This is why I’ve never written a post about this, because I can’t put it into words. Or maybe i don’t really know what I mean. 😉

    • Actually, I think you said it better than I did. There is value in meaning even if it’s our own imposed meaning. (Aside, the word “meaning” is starting to look weird. I think I’ve read and written it too many times!)

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